The only Jewish woman running for statewide office this year insists she has a lock on the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. “I believe I am well-positioned [to] win the primary,” says Sandra Frankel, supervisor of the town of Brighton, N.Y.
She may be right. Being the only Jew and the only woman on the ticket may have its advantages in a year in which a high turnout among Jewish women is expected. “The response of the Jewish community has been very positive,” she says of those she met while campaigning.
The problem is that a majority of voters in the state probably aren’t aware that she’s one of three Democrats vying for the nomination to be New York’s second highest elected official. There hasn’t been a primary race for lieutenant governor in this state since 1982, and few people seem to be aware that one is taking place now.
The candidates suffer from the perception that the job is meaningless, and a lack of support from contributors because the position holds no power except in the unlikely event the governor steps down or dies while in office, says the political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
“In other states around the country the lieutenant governor is a serious player,” says Sheinkopf. “In Texas, he runs the legislative agenda in the state, as well as in Alabama and North Carolina. In those states they decide committee assignments. Here they get a nice chair [in the Senate chamber].”
Vying for the nomination with Frankel are Clyde Rabideau, mayor of Plattsburgh; and Charles King, a Manhattan lawyer and former counsel to the state Assembly.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, who is running for governor, has named Frankel his “running mate” while his rival, Council Speaker Peter Vallone has tapped Rabideau. The designation is in name only, since each candidate is elected separately. After the primary, the gubernatorial candidate and lieutenant governor candidate become part of the same ticket.
All three candidates were campaigning in New York City this week. In separate interviews, they stressed the same priorities: job development, health care reform and education. Frankel said she would redefine the office as Hynes’ “co-governor,” promoting his policies. Rabideau said he would be Vallone’s emissary to the cities.The Miami-born Frankel, 56, a mother, grandmother and former speech therapist, stressed her Reform Jewish background. “I believe I bring a balance to the Democratic ticket,” she said. King, 39, an African American, said he had a history of working to improve black-Jewish ties. “I have been a constant critic of [Nation of Islam leader] Louis Farrakhan.” King said he opposes the planned Million Youth March organized by Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a former Farrakhan aide who has made anti-Semitic statements. “I can’t support a march, no matter how worthy the cause, if it’s organized by preachers of hate,” said King.
Rabideau, 42, said that while campaigning in Brooklyn, he became sympathetic to the concerns of large families who send their children to yeshivas. “Peter and I are very committed to working with families with different cultural and religious beliefs who face this problem,” said Rabideau. (A recent Gallup poll showed 51 percent of Americans now favor some type of tuition voucher program for private schools.)
Both Frankel and King oppose vouchers.Each of the candidates enjoy an advantage. Female candidates are running for governor and Senate, and Frankel could benefit from a high turnout of voters who want to elect more women. King is one of only two black statewide candidates, but with Comptroller H. Carl McCall facing no primary challenger, black turnout may be minimal. Rabideau benefits from Vallone’s substantial field operation and the perception of large-scale managerial experience, although Plattsburgh has a smaller population (22,000) than Frankel’s Brighton (35,000).
But Sheinkopf insists all these details will be lost on the voter. “No one will know anything about these candidates when they walk into the voting booth,” says Sheinkopf.
# Do images of Holocaust victims belong in a partisan campaign commercial? That’s the question raised by Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s latest TV ad. The spot highlights the Republican’s role in brokering an agreement with Swiss banks over the accounts of Holocaust victims.
“God bless Senator D’Amato,” says Estelle Sapir, daughter of a Swiss bank account-holder. The commercial also features war-era footage of concentration camp victims, raising questions of taste and propriety.
“It seems a little excessive to run footage of such an important event in something that is so-self-serving,” said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Public Advocate Mark Green, one of three Democrats hoping to challenge D’Amato in November.
A Jewish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the commercial was “tasteless and tacky. But this is what politicians do.”
A spokesman for D’Amato did not return calls at press time.
# Marking the seventh anniversary of Yankel Rosenbaum’s murder during the Crown Heights riots last week, Norman Rosenbaum renewed his call for a continued federal investigation into his brother’s death. Rosenbaum was joined by Republican state attorney general Dennis Vacco at a Borough Park service in Rosenbaum’s memory, as he called on the Justice Department to continue the search for suspects. D’Amato and Gov. George Pataki have also expressed support for further action.
But Hynes, who pushed the feds to take up the case after a state jury acquitted murder suspect Lemrick Nelson Jr., is not joining the chorus.
“Because of his pain, which I understand, nothing is going to satisfy him,” says the DA of Norman Rosenbaum. “But the possibility of this ever being reopened is slim to none.
“Even if we found [more suspects], we wouldn’t be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they knew this bum would take a knife out and kill Yankel.”
But Isaac Abraham, a spokesman for the family, insists the trail has not grown cold. “The murder cases of Martin Luther King and Medger Evers were opened after 30 years,” says Abraham. “Had this been a police officer the government would not have said ‘We’re lucky we have two’ and stopped there.”
# Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was accompanied by two of his top Jewish aides this week on a trip through America’s heartland to raise funds and make speeches for prominent Republicans.According to one Giuliani supporter, it is no accident that the mayor brought along Chief of Staff Bruce Teitelbaum and Deputy Mayor Randy Levine: The mayor’s popularity and fund-raising ability with Jewish voters in New York is a factor that could play well with the national Republican party as it seeks to regain the White House in 2000, said the source. Republicans reportedly believe Jewish voters and money in several key states could bolster GOP chances. Giuliani was slated to be the main attraction at fund raisers for Iowa Reps. James Leach and Jim Lightfoot.
The trip comes on the heels of a Giuliani fund raiser for Linda Lingle, the Jewish mayor of Maui, Hawaii, who is running for governor of that state. But Steve Rabinowitz, a former Clinton White House aide and veteran of nine Democratic presidential campaigns, said Giuliani has no chance as a GOP nominee.
“It’s inconceivable,” Rabinowitz said. “The right wing in the Republican Party will veto any presidential or vice presidential candidate who is as progressive as Giuliani can be.”
And in terms of Giuliani appealing to Jews, Rabinowitz said, “There is no Republican alive who can bring more Jewish support to the party than they already enjoy. Jewish support is for the Democrats to lose, not for the Republicans to gain.”